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How 3 Smart Brands Turned Negative Reviews into Opportunities: A Quick Case Study

Negative Reviews

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of lashing out when your business receives a negative review. After all, we too, have feelings! When we’re criticized, our natural instincts take over. You could either pick a fight or simply shrug it off as if nothing had happened. But nowadays, customers have the ability to broadcast their negative feedback with just a single click. So, what’s a brand to do? 

Rather than addressing them, a lot of today’s businesses choose to turn the other cheek and ignore negative sentiments from customers. But we’re no longer living in a world where businesses are in control of what to communicate to their customers.

In fact, ignoring negative reviews might actually make matters worse for your brand. 

However, bad reviews may not be as problematic as you may think. According to a 2017 study of over one million local reviews, the number of reviews you get has a direct effect on your brand’s performance on search engine results.

In the survey, high-ranking listings were found to have an average of 38 reviews, while the low-ranking ones have an average of 14 reviews or less. The gist of this is that the negative reviews you get are still added to the total quantity so the more reviews you get, the higher your search engine ranking will be. 

The Brighter Side of Things

Negative reviews can alert you to possible “blind spots” or problem areas in your business that need to be fixed or improved further. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to address customer concerns which in turn, gives you the chance to change their impression of your brand (and hopefully get them to revise their review).

The same 2017 study reported that reading negative reviews while giving them a sense of the worst-case scenario, is not the singular reason customers stay away from a brand. In fact, 40% of survey respondents said they’d look for negative feedback before purchasing a product.

What’s more important for them is that a business must have a full range of customers’ sentiments – be it good or bad – which could allow them to make more informed buying decisions.

Dealing with Negative Reviews: How Some Brands Turned Things Around 

The advent of the Internet has completely changed the face of customer service. Several years ago, we still had to go to all the trouble of writing letters or picking up the phone to make complaints. But now, all we have to do is to leave a negative review online to voice out our dissatisfaction over a brand.

We’re just a Wi-Fi connection away! 

But for some brands, they not only addressed these negative reviews – they took it up a notch and used them to their advantage. Below are examples of 3 smart brands that turned negative reviews into a marketing win: 

EduBirdie and the Cheating Scandal


In early 2018, custom writing service, EduBirdie, has become the subject of much criticism when they got involved in an alleged academic cheating scandal involving a number of YouTube influencers. You can find more details in this EduBirdie review. 

In a report by UK news outlet, BBC, over 200 YouTube channels were discovered to have been promoting the Ukraine-based writing service, seemingly encouraging students to buy custom-written academic papers instead of doing the work themselves. Educational institutions were quick to respond to this, condemning the “academically unethical” practice and warning their students not to patronize EduBirdie or they’ll face serious consequences. 

This series of promotional ads have since been removed from YouTube, but EduBirdie had to do some serious damage control afterward. At this point, you’d probably think they’re better off closing their business but EduBirdie is a tough cookie to break. They actually stepped in and responded to their critics, as any decent business would.

By being responsive and attempting to find solutions to reviewers’ complaints, they managed to boost customer advocacy. EduBirdie turned the tide and has since become the most sought-after writing service in the world. Cool! 

The Takeaway: 

A lot of business owners are afraid to respond to negative reviews because they think it would make the complaint true or that it would somehow turn into a big deal. The truth is, readers, don’t even know anything beyond the complaint and that there’s no response from you, the business owner. 

The solution? Just take a long, deep breath and reply to these negative feedback. 

Whether or not you can save the situation, the content of a negative review becomes less significant when you take action. What really matters to your audience is that they see you being responsive and that you treat customers with respect. From there, it’s up to them to decide if they like the way you handle the issue. If you strive to take the high road, you’d always come out looking good! 

Wendy’s Wins the Twitter War


The way you address negative reviews speaks volumes about your brand. But no matter what your approach is, you must first create a game plan before deciding to respond to any form of criticism.

Getting negative online reviews from unsatisfied customers isn’t new for a popular fast-food chain, Wendy’s. In fact, they had to deal with them on a daily basis. But instead of ignoring nasty comments (whether from real customers or online trolls), Wendy’s used them as a chance to make a splash on various social media platforms.

With a bit of wit and humor, they turned criticisms and backlash into a marketing win. This hilarious Twitter exchange here even made them go viral!

The Takeaway: 

According to the 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey conducted by Gladly, 50 percent of respondents said they’re more likely to rely on online reviews (on websites and social media) when deciding to buy a product or service. So if you receive negative feedback, you must act fast – ideally within 7 days or less. 

When it comes to customer service, being aware of customer complaints must be your top priority. However, you should also keep in mind that not all the negative reviews are valuable, so it pays to have a game plan on how you can handle all these feedback that’ll set you apart from brands that choose to ignore them. 

Depending on your brand’s personality, you can opt to be friendly and conversational or more formal but diplomatic. Carefully decide on a communication strategy that’ll match your brand identity, and then stick with it. 

Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround”


Cringe-worthy as it can be, you might find yourself in a situation where you sift through all these negative reviews and end up having to admit to yourself that something’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. This was the case with the American pizza restaurant chain, Domino’s Pizza. 

Back in 2009, Domino’s released “The Pizza Turnaround” a documentary video that shows how the company listened to the harshest feedback on their pizza. But instead of simply responding one-by-one to these customer complaints, Domino’s used them to completely redevelop their pizza, from the dough all the way to the sauce and the cheese. By discovering “blind spots” through negative reviews, Domino’s was able to make their “best pizza ever”.

Company president, Patrick Doyle, couldn’t have said it better: “You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it a better pizza.

The Takeaway: 

Customer reviews provide businesses the opportunity to learn something. All you need is to go through the various reviews and find patterns like recurring themes, language, or problems. Over time, you’ll gain valuable insight into your customers’ needs and the best ways to improve your products or services. 

While negative reviews are especially useful for product development, you should also take every effort to keep all these negative sentiments in check. Yes, they’re useful, but if you’re seeing an alarming 1/10 ratio of negative to positive feedback, you can bet that something’s gone really wrong. In this case, you need to stop optimizing and focus more on finding a solution to the problem. 

Bad Reviews Can Be Good! 

As Dita Von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.” There’s always going to be hate, but what’s really important for upholding your brand’s reputation, is what you do about it.

It’s understandable if you wish to focus on gaining as many positive reviews as possible (and possibly doing away with negative reviews). But all research points to negative feedback adding a bit of oomph to your trust rating. After all, nobody believes that a business has never stumbled! 

If you want to make the most of negative reviews for driving conversions, use them to reach out to your customers and prospects, and show them that you’re a brand that cares. It’s a sure-fire way to improve brand identity and customer advocacy – one that will have a long-lasting positive effect on your conversions.

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Carol Duke

Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on marketing-related matters, Carol enjoys traveling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries.
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